Through foresight and communication, we can work together to rid the world of rabies

On Oct 14, 2011, approximately 800 dogs were rescued by two local groups in Sichuan Province in China. To ensure the health of the animals, IFAW provided rabies and other vaccinations to control the possible spread of distemper and other diseases.The International Fund for Animal Welfare welcomed the announcement by the World Organisation for Animal Health, the OIE, during its annual meeting in Paris this week, of the follow up to its Global Conference on Rabies control attended by IFAW in November 2011.

The OIE conference noted that;

“massive culling of dog populations or wildlife, as isolated, interim or emergency control measures, is neither sustainable nor scientifically supported for efficiently controlling or eliminating dog-mediated rabies”

There are few diseases that that cause as much human and animal suffering as rabies.

Rabies is the most deadly infectious disease on earth, and once its terrible symptoms develop death is virtually guaranteed. In an effort to control the spread of rabies up to 20 million dogs are slaughtered each year using ruthless and inhumane methods such as drowning, clubbing, deliberate starvation, strychnine poisoning and electrocution.

Rabies is a human and animal welfare tragedy, as well as a conservation problem for species such as the African wild dog and the rare Ethiopian wolf.

One person dies of rabies every ten minutes, with at least 55,000 humans dying every year according to the OIE. All mammals can contract rabies and can potentially spread it to each other;  notably, 98% of human rabies cases are caused by dog bites.

The OIE rabies recommendations included humane dog population management, compliance with OIE animal welfare and other standards, and that governmental and non-governmental organisations active in rabies control communicate and coordinate their efforts with national authorities and international NGOs, to maximize sustainability of their collaboration and joint projects.

IFAW and its animal welfare partners in the International Coalition for Animal Welfare gave a presentation for OIE members at their annual meeting to communicate the rabies prevention work we are doing with governments in different parts of the world.

IFAW focused on our work in the South African townships around Johannesburg where, in 2010, a rabies outbreak was identified. We sent three veterinary teams into the townships at risk, going door to door, vaccinating over 5,000 cats and dogs and providing information to local authorities.

Our teams also visited schools, encouraging children to bring their dogs to get vaccinated, where vaccines were supplied by the South Africa Department of Agriculture (DoA). We were able to contain the rabies outbreak and avoid a panic situation that could have resulted in the brutal and unnecessary slaughter of many innocent animals.

IFAW believes we will, in working with the OIE and other key partners, be able to look forward to the day when rabies is no longer a threat to humans and animals.

In the short term we welcome the OIE recommendations which will help ensure an end to the brutal and senseless killing of dogs that currently occurs when governments fail to take proper measures to prevent rabies outbreaks.

--CM

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